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What's the Deal With
Albert Pujols' Swing?

Updated 2013.07.31

As I write this piece, on July 4th 2013, the Cardinals are playing the Angels and Albert Pujols is struggling to keep his batting average north of .250 and his OPS north of .750, both of which are well below Pujols' historic numbers.

As I have discussed previously, Albert Pujols' past struggles have been related to problems with...

Albert Pujols' current problems are due to something similar, but are different enough that I thought they are worth a new piece.

The Secrets of Albert Pujols' Swing

For those who want to develop a comprehensive understanding of Albert Pujols' swing, I have put together a new eBook entitled The Secrets of Albert Pujols' Swing. It contains 650+ pages of photos and descriptions and is on SALE for just $19.95 from now until Opening Day, 2014.

The Anatomy of Albert Pujols' Swing

To understand Albert Pujols' struggles, you have to understand his swing; why he does -- or did -- what he does. I have previously done an analysis of Albert Pujols' swing, but let me zero in on a few specific aspects of his swing that help to explain his struggles in 2013.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Classic Stride
2009

The defining characteristic of Albert Pujols' swing is his wide stance. Albert Pujols' wide stance does three things...

  • It makes him harder to pitch to by reducing the size of the strike zone and the area that he has to cover.
  • It makes his swing more efficient by helping him swing and adjust with his entire body.
  • It makes his swing more powerful by giving him more linear energy to work with.

The inherent instability of Albert Pujols' stance -- the fact that his center of mass is well forward of his back foot -- explains why he did what he did with his front foot; how he took a very small stride and really just picked up his heel and then put it right back down where it was.

I call this his Classic Stride.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Classic Stride
2005

Albert Pujols' Classic Stride, and what he did with his front foot in particular, was the key to his swing and to his success; it let him employ a wide, low, unstable stance but still be able to adjust to off-speed pitches.

Albert Pujols' Swing c. 2013

As he did in 2011, Albert Pujols has changed his stride. Instead of just doing the heel lift, this year he is typically employing a relatively large leg lift that resembles the leg lift that he uses during a home run derby.

As a result, I call this his Home Run Derby Stride.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Home Run Derby Stride
June 15, 2013

One problem with this is that, because of his wide stance -- unlike others, I don't see any evidence that his stride is significantly narrower -- Albert Pujols has hurt his ability to adjust and hit off-speed pitches. That has robbed him of his trademark ability to hit for both power and average.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Home Run Derby Stride
June 15, 2013
Annotated

The bigger problem is that Albert Pujols has now developed a tendency to step in the bucket; to step down the third base line and toward the third base dugout.

In the clip above, notice how, as he steps toward the third base dugout, that pulls the bat head with him. As a result, rather than hitting the ball off of the sweet spot of the bat and solidly up the middle or to the opposite field, he instead hits the ball off the very end of the bat and ends up with a lucky broken bat single to center field.

Albert Pujols' Heatmap 2013

Albert Pujols
2013 Season Through July 3, 2013

As the heatmap above shows, Albert Pujols' new tendency to step in the bucket has created an increasingly large hole in his swing at the bottom of the strike zone.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Classic Stride
2005
Annotated

If you look at Albert Pujols' swing when he was hitting his best, he strode at least neutral if not slightly closed.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
Classic Stride
2010

That let him cover the entire plate, and particularly the pitch low and away.

If I ran the Zoo

If Albert Pujols were to ask me what to do, I would tell him that, at a minimum, he needs to pick one stride and stick with it.

I have seen Albert Pujols change his stride from game to game, at bat to at bat, and sometimes even from swing to swing. He generally uses his Home Run Derby stride, but at times he uses his Classic Stride.

Albert Pujols' Swing

Albert Pujols
June 27, 2013

Based on my experience working with Andres Torres, and his struggles with a similar problem, I have found that it's not possible for a major league hitter to make such frequent changes to his stride and still be successful. Hitting is highly dependent on timing, and it's simply not possible for Albert Pujols to make such frequent changes to his stride and be able to maintain his timing.

Given his tendency to step in the bucket when doing a leg lift, the fact that the leg lift tends to hurt his ability to hit the ball low and away, and the fact that the leg lift also hurts his ability to hit good off-speed pitching, the simplest, and probably best, solution is for Albert Pujols to go back to the old ways; to his classic stride.

If Albert Pujols is reluctant to eliminate the leg lift, then he should at least consider starting out in a more open stance. That would then force him to stride closed, which would reduce the likliehood that he would step in the bucket.

Update 2013.07.27

If you look at the clips of Albert Pujols' swings that have been posted to mlb.com since I first put this piece together, it's interesting to note that in all but one of these clips that shows a hit, Albert Pujols uses his Classic Stride. What's more, while the 13.07.24 hit was a single, it was topped quite badly.

Albert Pujols is still using both his Classic Stride and his Home Run Derby Stride, but he is far more successful when using his Classic Stride.

Update 2013.07.31

Since I first put this piece together, Albert Pujols' numbers have improved significantly. He hit .297 in the month of July and .385 during the last week or so of July.

I would argue that this improvement is due in large part to what looks like Albert Pujols' more frequent use of his Classic Stride during the month of July.

However, and in my opinion tellingly, Albert Pujols just went on the disabled list with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. I don't think it's much of a stretch to suggest that this makes the case that Albert Pujols' problems with his swing during the 2013 season, and the changes that he made to his stride, were due to problems with his feet.

Albert Pujols' foot problems made it painful for him to use his Classic Stride. When he decided to bite the bullet, and reverted back to his Classic Stride in an effort to get his numbers back up, he over-loaded his plantar fascia and ended up on the DL.

The Secrets of Albert Pujols' Swing

For those who want to develop a comprehensive understanding of Albert Pujols' swing, I have put together a new eBook entitled The Secrets of Albert Pujols' Swing. It contains 650+ pages of photos and descriptions and is on SALE for just $19.95 from now until Opening Day, 2014.

For More Information

Given that I am from St. Louis, and I got my start analyzing hitters by analyzing Albert Pujols' swing, I have written a number of pieces on Albert Pujols' swing.

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